By Chad Baalman
Even with their days numbered as a touring act with the original members, Queen found themselves in the thick of history one July 1986 evening.
The foursome from England ventured into Hungary for the first time. Not just that, Queen performed in front of the largest crowd ever at the Népstadion in Budapest.
Luckily for us, more than 16 cameras and several more technicians were on hand to capture the night’s events in the Eastern Bloc – namely Freddie Mercury preening and strutting like a natural in front of 80,000 fans, in what was the first rock concert from the Western World to take place behind the Iron Curtain.
“Hungarian Rhapsody – Queen Live in Budapest ’86″ came out via limited release in theaters late last month, with over 30 patrons taking in the 90-minute production on Sept. 27 at the Tivoli Theatre in the University City Loop.
Remastered in high-definition for the first time with 5.1 surround sound, it will also be released on DVD and Blu-Ray (which will run just under two hours) by Eagle Rock Entertainment on November 5.
It didn’t take long for Queen to assault the senses of viewers. Guitarist Brian May got things started at a blistering pace by tearing into “One Vision,” the lead track off A Kind Of Magic released a year earlier.
Mercury, the flamboyant front man and lead vocalist, took it from there decked out in a white track suit. He showed he still had the chops for the taut rocker “Tie Your Mother Down,” with May, drummer Roger Taylor and bassist John Deacon in tow with the gang vocals.
The Budapest date took place during the stretch run of Queen’s Magic Tour – the band’s last road trip with Mercury out front. Mercury was diagnosed with AIDS a year later and passed away in 1991.
Mercury showcased a dominating stage presence. When he wasn’t wielding his half-sized mic stand like a baton, he was playing air guitar mimicking May’s solos. Of course, Mercury dialed down the theatrics when he pulled up to the piano for the hit ballad “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
The concert film mixes in footage of the band members carousing Budapest, with Taylor racing go karts on the Hungarian Grand Prix course, May taking a ride in a hot air balloon and Mercury on a boat tour asking if the House of Parliament was for sale before trying a shot of Hungarian liquor. “It’s delicious. . .and strong,” he quipped.
Queen gave the 21-song set some local flavor with a rendition of the Hungarian folk song, “Tavaszi szél vizet áraszt.” A lighter moment featured Mercury and Co. covering Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.” Unfortunately, oldies “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care” and “Hello Mary Lou” were edited out of the compilation.
Queen pulled the usual hits out of the quiver for the last part of the show. “Hammer To Fall” was another highlight, followed by “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Cameras captured the fans clapping in unison to “Radio Ga Ga” before the staples “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” as Mercury draped himself with a flag bearing British colors on one side, and the Hungarian stripes on the other.
With an early November release, “Hungarian Rhapsody – Queen Live in Budapest ’86″ would make a nice stocking stuffer for the holidays, if not for fans of Queen and British rock, but as a historical bookmark for Queen’s final tour with Mercury front and center.
Tie Your Mother Down
In the Lap of the Gods…Revisited
Seven Seas of Rhye
Tear It Up
A Kind of Magic
Who Wants to Live Forever
I Want to Break Free
Now I’m Here
Love of My Life
Tavaszi szél vizet áraszt
Is This the World We Created?
Hammer to Fall
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Radio Ga Ga
We Will Rock You
Friends Will Be Friends
We Are the Champions
*‘A Magic Year’ Documentary (25 minutes)
* – On DVD/Blu Ray